Saturday, August 11, 2012

Real News Video : Egypt's 'Operation Eagle' Attempts to Restore Order in Lawless Sinai

Egypt's 'wild west' has descended into chaos according to the Military Council and newly Elected President Mohammed Morsi following deadly border attacks

More at The Real News

Al-Jazeera Video: Syria rebels confront enemy with limited support

Anger, tears, and forgiveness as Syrian rebel and his prisoner share their fears

As evidence mounts of abuse and summary execution of prisoners , The Observer witnesses an extraordinary meeting between a Sunni rebel leader and his Alawite captive in al-Bab, near Aleppo

Martin Chulov, Saturday 11 August 2012

"....The sheikh and his captive – the Sunni rebel leader and the Alawite officer – were getting deeper into conversation. Barakat agreed to let The Observer listen in and asked that his name be used.

"I didn't expect you to treat us this way," said Barakat. "You give us food three times a day, Qu'rans, and even cigarettes."

"You would not have done the same for us," Omar replied.

"That's true," said Barakat. "There was a culture there."

"It was more than a culture," Omar replied. "It had become a way of life. Cruelty and oppression were what you guys did by instinct.".....

As the battle grinds towards a conclusion in Aleppo, Syria's warring parties are increasingly being forced to confront some uncomfortable truths. Themes now being openly discussed in scenes like this, as well as in meetings between elders, and even during moments of introspection on the battlefield, include: how did the society slide this far towards the abyss, and can anything be done to rescue it now?.....

Yet both the sheikh and the Alawite lieutenant are anxious to dispel talk of longstanding enmity between their sects. The same case for cooperation is being made in political circles, although hardly with a booming voice.....

By now, Barakat's eyes were welling with tears. He stared straight ahead, doing all he could to maintain his composure. Then came the question that broke him.

"When was the last time you saw your wife?" Omar asked. Barakat managed the words "five months ago" before grief overcame him. As he sobbed into his hands, a young rebel brought him a glass of water and a napkin.

"You can go and see them," the sheikh said.

"God bless you all," Barakat said while wiping his eyes. "100 salaams (peace)."......"

Al-Jazeera Video: ما وراء الخبر - الدور الايراني في التعامل مع الأزمة الس

"تسلط الحلقة الضوء على الدوافع الإيرانية من التغلغل بقوة في تفاصيل الملف السوري وكذا انعكاسات التدخل الإيراني على تطورات المشهد في سوريا.
تقديم : عبد القادر عياض
تاريخ البث : 2012/08/07

Syria: Aleppo Civilians at Great Risk

Government, Opposition Forces Should Respect Laws of War

August 10, 2012

".....The laws of war prohibit attacks that do not distinguish between military targets and civilians, or attacks on military targets in which the anticipated harm to civilians is disproportionate to the anticipated military advantage. The government’s use of heavy artillery with a wide blast radius and other indirect-fire weapons without adequate spotters against military targets in populated areas raise serious concerns about indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch’s investigation found no evidence to support Syrian government claims that Free Syrian Army forces are preventing civilians from fleeing Aleppo. To the contrary, all of the witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that FSA soldiers had encouraged them to leave the areas under attack, and helped them to flee the city by providing cars, gasoline, and advice on safe routes....."

Syria welcomed them – now it has spat them out

The Palestinians caught in Syria's crossfire have fled. Our writer met them in Bourj el-Barajneh, Beirut

By Robert Fisk

"....."I suppose we were sympathetic to the protesters in the streets and we were probably upset that unarmed people were being killed. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command were with the regime, but some of their officers were not. Even some of the Palestine Liberation Army (part of the Syrian armed forces) are not with the regime. Violence began in Yarmouk two weeks ago. PLA men came to protect the camp. Shells landed on the camp – we don't know who fired them.

"Then Syrian helicopters flew over us and dropped leaflets. They showed a picture of a boy smiling, and the caption said: 'If you want to keep your son smiling, evacuate the area'."

Irony again. In 1982, the Israeli air force dropped almost identical leaflets over civilian areas of besieged Beirut which said: "If you value the lives of your loved ones, leave West Beirut." Did the Syrian authorities learn from the Israelis?

"Syrian tanks then came to Arouba Street and started firing. A neighbour of mine, Maafeq Sayed, was in the Araba area and was hit in the neck by a sniper and died. His mother said the government television claimed he was a terrorist. The government hospital registered him as the victim of a heart attack. The 'GC' Palestinians did not shoot back.

"Then came rumours that the Alawi in the Syrian army were going to massacre us. Some women were slaughtered in the Asali area next to the Yarmouk camp. Palestinians came to rescue people trapped in their homes. Then there were more rumours that people had come with knives to slaughter the Alawis."

On Friday of last week, shells fell across Yarmouk, killing 20 and wounding 54 Palestinians, 18 of whom lost limbs. There were women and children among the victims. Um Khaled sold her family furniture and set off to friends in Beirut....."

Friday, August 10, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: Rebels face network of 'spies' in Aleppo

"It has been more than two weeks, and neither the Free Syrian Army nor pro-Assad forces have been able to take total control of Syria's second city, Aleppo. Free Syrian Army fighters say they cannot compete with the Syrian army's superior weapons, as protesters across the country urge the international community to provide anti-aircraft weapons. In trying to capture Aleppo, the FSA is not only battling Assad's military, but also facing a network of government sympathisers and spies. Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught was in the city in recent days, and sent this report shortly before speaking to us on the phone."

Al-Jazeera Video: Egypt deploys troops to the Sinai

Inside Aleppo: air strikes on war-torn city leave anguish on the ground

Residents live in fear in Syria's second city as violence escalates and rebels prepare to launch attacks on state buildings

Martin Chulov in Aleppo, Friday 10 August 2012

".....The rumble of bombs and the scream of jets make another assault on the senses. On Tuesday morning, near a rebel position in the east of the capital, one of the jets approached fast and low. Its camouflage markings could easily be made out as it raced towards the rebel-held school house in its sites. So could the bombs attached to its underbelly.

The jet roared across the top of the rebel base – a schoolyard, in which portraits of former dictator Hafez al-Assad lay smashed inside on the floor. It dropped its bomb – and missed, instead hitting a small adjoining home, killing a family of 10 and leaving a neighbourhood in despair....."

This is What The Syrian Air Force is for: Destroying Syrian Cities and Slaughtering Syrians by the Tens of Thousands

A Syrian Air Force jet fires rockets during an air strike in the village of Tel Rafat, some 23 miles north of Aleppo, 9 August 2012. Photo: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic

Nobody Above Criticism

By Maysaloon

Friday, August 10, 2012

"It is one thing to speak the language of freedom and yearn for democracy, but another when it comes to actually applying such principles into practice. Recently I had a discussion with several people on Twitter about the Free Syrian Army and whether or not it was prudent to criticize them when they do something wrong. Surprisingly, a lot of people were of the view that either the FSA was above reproach because they were critical for the revolution, or that this was not the time to kick up a fuss.

I think all of these views are wrong, and if we don't hold the FSA accountable for its behaviour now, then later down the line the whole country is going to suffer for this. I think the FSA have been remarkably brave, courageous and resilient in their defence of the Syrian people, but they have also carried out actions that amount to war crimes. Extra-judicial killings, threats, and heavy handedness have been reported, and this is not to give any credence to the Syrian regime's hysterical propaganda.

The FSA are made up of volunteers as well as defected soldiers, and amongst them are people who might be just as morally bankrupt or ruthless as the regime's henchmen. To demand that the FSA cleans up its act now means that they will take immediate action against such people, and history has shown us the dangers of what bad people in institutions are capable of.

Baathism has been in control of Syria since 1963, and the way that it took control of the country and its institutions was through the army. Hafez Assad then took control of all these institutions to turn the country into the private property of him and his cronies, and corruption itself became institutionalized. Yet, we must not forget that he and his party, as well as the Syrian army, were considered by some to be the darlings of Arabism, anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism up until last year. He may or may not have had good intentions at the outset, but the atrocities and corruption of his regime speak for themselves. Accountability, transparency and freedom of speech and opinion were not tolerated, and because of that our country has become a living nightmare today.

Are we going to make the same mistake and blindly hand over our fates once more to well-intentioned soldiers, however sincere they might be today? Are we going to do the same thing that Assad forced us to do for forty years, to stay quiet for the sake of "unity" in the face of an external threat?
What if the FSA, in the interest of safeguarding Syria and the revolution, decide that all free speech and human rights are to be suppressed until the danger has passed? Shall we wait another forty years and undergo another bloodbath to be rid of them too?

The time to demand that those who fight for us, or claim to speak for us, adhere to human rights and respect the rights of all Syrians is now, and it's incumbent upon each and every one of us to speak up if somebody else is being bullied for voicing their doubts or asking questions. We need a cultural and social shift away from shouting each other down, and have to start realising that debate and questioning are not a threat but a strength. Syria does not need more politicians, soldiers or leaders. What we do need is more people who will stand up and point their finger at something that is wrong.

If the FSA have stepped up to the burden of protecting the Syrian people, then that burden also includes doing the job the right way. The Syrian revolution has come this far, let's not have it fall at the first hurdle just because somebody is courageous enough to point out shortcomings."

Report From Turkey-Syria Border: Syrian Refugees Report "Horrific Carnage" in Besieged Aleppo

Democracy Now!

"Several neighborhoods have reportedly been reduced to rubble as the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad wages a massive ground assault to retake control of Aleppo. According to activists, more than 20,000 people, mostly unarmed civilians, have died in the last 17 months of fighting and tens of thousands have fled the country. On Thursday, almost 2,000 people reached neighboring Turkey as refugee flows continue to rise. About a quarter of a million of Syrians have left the country for neighboring states over the course of the conflict. We go to the Turkey-Syria border to speak with Reese Erlich, a freelance foreign correspondent who has reported from Syria on several occasions. “Apparently, the pattern is, if a neighborhood was the scene of a free Syrian army take over, or even previous demonstrations there, the civilian neighborhood is bombarded from the air all by artillery and that’s forced a lot of people to leave, the one U.N. estimate was 250,000, just over the last week or so, mostly internally displaced,” Erlich says...."

Real News Video : The Dangerous Global Consequences of a Syria Intervention

Sami Ramadani Pt5: History has shown that deep global economic crisis can lead to war. An intervention into Syria will severely heighten tensions between Russia, China and the US.

More at The Real News

Deeming him "threat to state security," Israel bans Addameer founder from travel abroad

By Ali Abunimah

"In a move that can only be seen as retaliation for the organization’s effectiveness in challenging Israeli abuses, Israel has imposed an international travel ban on Abdullatif Ghaith, the chair and one of the founders of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.

Over recent months, as Palestinian prisoners have staged a wave of hunger strikes forcing Israel to make concessions toward their rights, Addameer has played a key role visiting, liaising with and supporting the prisoners and getting information out to the world.

Ghaith, 71, is a prominent human rights defender, activist, and is himself a former “administrative detainee held repeatedly by Israeli occupation forces without charge or trial.

The travel ban is reminiscent of the practices of apartheid South Africa and other police states.
This is not the first time Israel has targeted prominent Palestinian human rights defenders in this way. For more than six years, Israel has banned Shawan Jabarin, the head of Al-Haq, from traveling abroad, similarly without providing any evidence......"

Bahrain must free prisoners of conscience after 'travesty of justice'

Amnesty International
9 August 2012

"The Bahraini authorities must release 13 opposition activists and prisoners of conscience Amnesty International said today, ahead of next week's expected final verdict on their appeals.

The 13, who include prominent activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, were originally sentenced by military court in June 2011 to between two years and life in prison on charges including “setting up terror groups to topple the royal regime and change the constitution”.

All of the men maintain their innocence.

Several of the defendants have spoken out in previous court hearings to describe their alleged torture and other ill-treatment in detention, including sexual assault, to coerce “confessions”.

"The Bahraini authorities must end this travesty of justice, quash all 13 opposition activists' convictions and release them immediately and unconditionally. They are prisoners of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme Deputy Director......"

Thursday, August 9, 2012

ميشال سماحة متهم بنقل متفجرات بسيارته من سورية تحضيرا لعمليات ارهابية في شمال لبنان

ميشال سماحة متهم بنقل متفجرات بسيارته من سورية تحضيرا لعمليات ارهابية في شمال لبنان

"بيروت - 'القدس العربي' من سعد الياس: فوجىء اللبنانيون امس بخبر توقيف وزير الاعلام الاسبق ميشال سماحة الذي حاز كلَّ الألقاب وآخرها لقب رجل بشار الاسد ليُضافَ إليها اليوم لقب 'الموقوف'، وفي يد رئيس فرع المعلومات وسام الحسن.
وتفيد المعلومات المتوافرة أن توقيفه جاء بناء على أدلة ثابتة وتسجيلات تؤكِّد تورط الوزير السابق في التحضير لعمليات أمنيّة، مع آخرين ومن بينهم أحد الأشخاص من آل 'كفوري'. وتضيف المعلومات أن الوزير سماحة نقل العبوات الناسفة بسيارته من سورية إلى لبنان، وبأنه تسلَّم هذه العبوات في زيارته الاخيرة لدمشق وبعدما كان في مكتب اللواء علي مملوك، وبأنه ضالعٌ في التحضير لزرعها في إفطارات كانت ستُقام في شمالي لبنان ولتخويف المسيحيين في عكار تزامناً مع زيارة البطريرك الماروني مار بشارة بطرس الراعي بهدف خلق فتنة سنية مسيحية. وقد اطلعت المراجع الرسمية على هذه المعطيات والاعترافات تباعاً أمس.
وبحسب المعلومات التي توافرت مساء فإن الوزير والنائب السابق ميشال سماحة إعترف بالتحضير لعمليات ارهابية في شمالي لبنان، وقد جاءت اعترافاته بعد اعتراف سائقه
وفي هذا السياق، أكدت مصادر أمنية أن الادلة كانت كاملة وقد بدأ جمعها منذ نحو أسبوعين.
وكشفت أن أحد الاشخاص الذين حاول سماحة تجنيدهم تعاون مع القوى الامنية للتوصل الى النتيجة التي تم التوصل اليها اليوم.
وذكرت قناة 'المنار' التابعة لحزب الله ليلاً أنه تم الافراج عن مرافقي الوزير سماحة علي الملاح وفارس بركات وسكرتيرته غلاديس عواضة. ونقلت 'المنار' عن مرافق سماحة أنه نفى ما نُسب اليه من اعترافات.
وسبق عملية الافراج حديث عن ضغوط يمارسها النظام السوري وحلفاؤه في لبنان على رئيس الجمهورية والقضاء للافراج عن سماحة.
وكانت شعبة المعلومات في قوى الامن الداخلي قد غادرت منزل سماحة في حي الجوار في بلدة الخنشارة بعد عملية دهم وتفتيش دقيقة، وأخذت مجموعة من الملفات وأجهزة كومبيوتر وأشرطة فيديو، ثم اقتادته إلى التحقيق إلى مبنى فرع المعلومات في الأشرفية، كما اوقفت سائقه فارس بركات واثنين من مرافقيه وسكرتيرته.
وروت غلاديس سماحة زوجة الوزير السابق سماحة انهما كانا لا يزالان في السرير عندما دهمت القوى الأمنية المنزل، وطلبت الاطلاع على الاستنابة القضائية فأجابها الضابط المسؤول بأنه لا يستطيع اطلاعها عليها ولكنها بحوزته.
ولفتت سماحة إلى ان فرع المعلومات أخذ 17 غرضاً من المنزل وهو وجد كلاشينكوف قديما في الخزانة، معتبرة ان القضية سياسية لأنه يمثل فريقاً معيناً في البلد وأن على هذا الفريق التحرك.
وفي هذا الاطار، أشارت مصادر أمنية إلى ان عدداً من المسؤولين كانوا على علم بعملية التوقيف ولاسيما وزير الداخلية مروان شربل.
كما استبعدت المصادر ان يكون توقيف سماحة له علاقة بالتعامل مع اسرائيل أو قضية قدح وذم كما تردّد لدى تسريب خبر التوقيف.
وبعد عملية التوقيف طرحت تساؤلات عما إذا كان الغطاء السياسي رفع عن ميشال سماحة ومَن أوقَع به؟ هل هي عملية تعقُّب أم معلومة من جهاز مخابراتي خارجي وجدَ ان التوقيت ملائم ليتخلّص منه؟
تجدر الاشارة الى أن تاريخ ميشال سماحة السياسي بدأ كرئيس لمصلحة الطلاب في حزب الكتائب اللبنانية، ثم رافق بشير الجميّل فإيلي حبيقة، ثم عيّن مستشاراً إعلامياً لأمين الجميّل في بداية ولايته الرئاسية قبل أن يكلفه الجميل رئاسة مجلس إدارة تلفزيون لبنان.
ومن حزب 'الله الوطن العائلة'، انتقل سماحة إلى المقلب الآخر، فشاهدناه رفيقاً لإيلي حبيقة خلال التحضير للاتفاق الثلاثي عام 1985. ومع سقوط الاتفاق أبعد عن المنطقة الشرقية ليعود إليها بعد دخول دبابات الجيش السوري إلى بعبدا، محصّناً بعلاقات سياسية وأمنية مع سورية وفرنسا حيث قسّم إقامته.

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Do you believe that Israel was behind the attack on the Egyptian border post in the Sinai?

With over 1,500 responding, 86% said yes.

"Resisting" by Destroying Aleppo


Al-Jazeera Video: Syria's rebels demand weapons from allies

"Syrian rebel commanders have told Al Jazeera that they need more weapons if they are to overcome government forces.

One of most senior generals in the Free Syrian Army also said that the promised foreign military aid has not materialised.

Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons reports from northern Syria."

Neocons vs. the 'Arab Spring': Back on the Warpath

By Ramzy Baroud
Palestine Chronicle

".....With the absence of a clear US strategy regarding Syria, the ever-organized neoconservatives seem to be the only ones with a clear plan, however damaging. In her Washington Post piece, Pletka’s argument for intervention, bridging countries, peoples, sects and groups of all kinds - as if the Middle East is but a chess game governed by delusional but persistent ambitions. In one single paragraph, she made mention of Iran, Hezbollah, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, terrorists aimed at destabilizing Iraq, “puppet governments in Beirut” and “Palestinian terror groups dedicated to Israel’s destruction.”

Yet, it is this sort of ‘political expertise’ that governed US foreign policy in the Middle East for nearly two decades. Now that the short respite is over, the neoconservatives are back with their bizarre maps, bleak visions, and a fail-proof recipe for perpetual conflict. "

Egypt's Sinai problem won't be solved with air strikes

Mubarak exploited Sinai and left 50% of Bedouins living in poverty. The new leaders mustn't just focus on sealing off Gaza

Fawaz Gerges, Wednesday 8 August 2012

"In response to last week's border attack in the Sinai peninsula which murdered 16 Egyptian soldiers, today Egyptian military attack helicopters fired missiles on suspected Islamist militants in Sinai, reportedly killing 20. The air strikes on Tumah village – the military's first in Sinai since Egypt's 1973 war with Israel – were carried out as security forces massed near Rafah on the Palestinian Gaza border for what they called a decisive confrontation with the militants.

Without addressing Sinai's severe social challenges, particularly a widespread feeling of neglect, discrimination and disfranchisement among its Bedouin population, the army's tactics might exacerbate an already dangerous situation.....

President Mohamed Morsi and the ruling generals had hoped to postpone the inevitable – rethinking Egypt's security architecture via Israel and the United States after the ouster of Mubarak, who collaborated with Israel in imposing its blockade of Gaza and acted as Washington's man in the region. They can no longer afford to do so.

The challenge facing the new Egyptian leadership is to construct a post-Mubarak order that prioritises human security broadly defined. That means economic development at home and a political strategy that empowers citizens and local communities, not crony capitalists......"

Al-Jazeera Video: Egypt's president fires intelligence chief

"Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi has fired his spy chief Murad Muwafi in a major shake-up of military and intelligence ranks extending to the head of the Republican Guard and the governor of North Sinai. Wednesday's decision comes several days after a deadly ambush in Sinai killed 16 soldiers, prompting an unprecedented military crackdown in the peninsula, but Morsi's spokesman did not say whether the attack had prompted the changes. Morsi also ordered Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the defence minister, to replace the head of military police Hamdi Badeen, his spokesman Yassir Ali said in a televised statement on Wednesday. Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal reports from Sinai."

Number of Syrian refugees in Turkey tops 50,000

"(Reuters) - More than 2,000 people fled violence in Syria to reach neighboring Turkey in the past two days, bringing the total number of Syrians who have sought refuge there to more than 50,000, Turkish authorities said on Thursday.

The rate of refugee flows has risen and there are fears there could be an exodus from Syria's biggest city Aleppo, where there is heavy fighting between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and rebel fighters.

There were 50,227 Syrians in Turkey as of Thursday, after 2,219 people crossed the border on Aug 8-9, the state-run Disaster and Emergency Administration said in a statement.

The refugees are housed at nine camps in four Turkish provinces along the Syrian border......"

Guardian Video: Aleppo: Syrian rebels battle Assad forces in Salahedin

Rebel forces fight the Syrian army on the streets of the Salahedin district of Aleppo on Wednesday. Both sides claim to have control over the area, which has become a focal point in the battle of Aleppo. In the southern city of Dera'a, video obtained from social media purports to show a mortar exploding near a funeral procession on Wednesday, Thursday 9 August 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

الحلقة الثالثة مع المفكر عزمي بشارة: الديمقراطية والتيارات السياسية العربية


Clashes in the Syrian city of Aleppo – in pictures (16 photos)

Award-winning photographer Goran Tomasevic has been covering clashes in the Syrian city of Aleppo, where fighting between rival factions appears to have reached a stalemate, Wednesday 8 August 2012

Syria rebels claim upper hand as battle for Aleppo grinds towards stalemate

Despite forces massed on both sides, neither seems willing or able to make decisive move on Salahedin neighbourhood

Martin Chulov in Aleppo, Wednesday 8 August 2012

"....Yet the decisive battle that most in Aleppo seemed to have feared is slowly giving way to another – even more dreaded – reality. Stalemate, with neither side willing or able to advance. A new sense is beginning to settle in that neither Salahedin, nor the rest of Syria's second city, will see an end to the fighting any time soon.....

Street 15 in Salahedin now resembles Leningrad in its darkest days, and the suburb itself is in far worse shape than when the Guardian last visited on Saturday. Most streets on the eastern side are now impassable by car. Broken sewage and water pipes and food leftovers have formed a festering stew over the few surfaces that aren't littered with the flotsam and jetsam of war.....

Recent senior defectors, among them two colonels from Aleppo who made their way to a nearby town on Tuesday, claimed that the fear of large numbers of defections if a ground attack was launched was shaping regime tactics.

"If they send the army in, they will throw off their clothes and leave," one of the men said. They want to sit back and bomb, just like they did in Homs."

The defectors also claimed that jets would bomb Aleppo and the eastern hinterland between 3am and 5am. On cue, the jets arrived. The fulfilled prediction means the two officers will now be asked to help devise tactics to repel the assault.

Whoever can prevail in a war of attrition will prevail in Aleppo and likely in the overall uprising. Though battle-weary and at times despairing, and still underprepared, the rebel forces appear to have the stamina to see the fight to a conclusion....."

Syrian rebels sign battlefield 'code of conduct'

  • Code comes after video showed executions
  • Says any captive should be treated as POW

BEIRUT, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Some prominent Syrian rebel fighters have signed a 'code of conduct' committing them to observe human rights in their battle to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, a week after video footage showed rebels executing pro-Assad militiamen in Aleppo.

The code, which activists said was signed by leaders of several rebel brigades, included pledges not to rape, torture or kill captives.
Free Syrian Army rebels will "respect human rights in accordance with our legal principles, our tolerant religious principles and the international laws governing human rights," it said.
Any soldier or Assad supporter captured by the rebels should be treated in accordance with laws governing prisoners of war.

"I pledge not to practice any form of torture, rape, mutilation or degradation. I will observe prisoners' rights and will not exercise any of the above practices in order to abstain confessions," the rebel code said.

Rights groups have accused Assad's forces of committing violations including torture and killing of captives. But last week footage emerged showing rebels executing four suspected "Shabbiha" militiamen, loyal to Assad, in Aleppo, with fighters gloating over the bodies in a police station overrun by rebels.

The Aleppo-based Tawheed brigade, believed to have captured the men who were shot dead in Aleppo last week, was not on the list of signatories, which included fighters from Deraa, Deir al-Zor, Sweida, Hama and Homs.

The leader of one of the brigades confirmed to Reuters he had signed the accord, but said he did not consider the commitments in the code to be binding.
Another rebel said his brigade refused to sign the conduct because they had reservations over some of its articles. He refused to specify.

Graphic: Countless Bodies At Aleppo university young men executed by Assad Shabeeha

EU-Israel: One hand whitewashes the other

The European Union is being duplicitous by condemning Israel's human rights abuses while increasing trade links.

By Ben White

"Cambridge, UK - How Israel can breach international law, commit systematic human rights abuses and colonise Palestine with impunity is typically blamed on the role of the US, for which there is plenty of supporting evidence: from the UN Security Council veto to significant financial and military support.

But the strength and high-profile of the US-Israel relationship has meant that the role of other parties in shielding Israel's apartheid regime has not been subjected to the critical scrutiny it deserves, particularly the case with the European Union.

While those on the hard right portray the EU as representing a continent of anti-Semitic Israel-bashers on the path to "Eurabia", the reality is that the EU is one of Israel's most important allies - whose policies are playing a crucial role in frustrating the Palestinian struggle for justice....."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian refugees struggle in Lebanon

"The conflict in Syria has forced tens of thousands of people to flee to the Bekaa Valley at the border in Lebanon where they face poor conditions and a lack of food. The refugees, many of whom are living in schools, have little or no money and say there is a shortage of many necessities, such as milk and diapers. The Lebanese government is still refusing to build refugee camps and with classes beginning in September, refugees fear they may soon have to live on the street. Al Jazeera's Rula Amin reports from the Lebanese-Syrian border."

Al-Jazeera Video: Anita McNaught reports from outside Aleppo

"Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught from outside Aleppo. She has been travelling around the province and was in Salaheddine district just a day ago."

Al-Jazeera Video: Interview: Jamal El Shayyal on the latest from Sinai

Al-Jazeera Video: قصة الدكتور السوري سمير كزكز في غزة

"دأب الدكتور سمير كزكز استشاري أمراض الدماغ والأعصاب والعمود الفقري بألمانيا على قضاء إجازته السنوية في غزة حيث يجري عمليات جراحية للمرضى والجرحى الفلسطينيين. ورغم سعادته بنجاحه الدائم في الوصول إلى غزة فإن الدكتور كزكز يأمل العودة الى سوريا ليخدم أبناءها في ظل الظروف الصعبة التي تمر بها."

Praying to a Higher Power, by Khalil Bendib

The Bead String is Broken, by Emad Hajjaj

Tanks have invaded Salahedin, but rebels still in control after tip-offs from defectors, Chulov reports.

Matthew Weaver and Brian Whitaker, Wednesday 8 August 2012

"Tanks have invaded Salahedin, but rebels remain in control of the district after being tipped off about the onslaught by officers who have just defected, Martin Chulov reports from Aleppo.

In telephone update he said:

It’s obvious that the regime is trying to push into the suburbs ... they did intensify efforts in the early hours of this morning. They [the government] are claiming that they have succeeded. We have spoken to rebel commanders on the ground ... and they say they are still in place.

They say regime tanks are moving up both sides of the district. It is a pitched battle for Salahedin, but at the moment the rebels say they are prevailing.

They say they have made a tactical withdrawal from a couple of streets ... but they say the regime hasn’t yet advanced into those areas, but they are expecting that advance very soon. They insist they hold the vast majority of the district, and that the withdrawal they have made is only a matter of 15 or so metres and is tactical.

Salahedin was always going to be ground zero for the battle for Aleppo, and the only way to dislodge rebels was going to be a ground invasion. It is being led by tanks, from what we understand there are not too many infantry. But they could follow later in the day. There are no ground forces in the rest of the city, but in Salahedin some kind of a push is under way.

Rebels claimed to have hit some tanks in Salahedin, Martin said. “The way this battle is going to play out is more of a war of attrition rather than a quick decisive battle,” he said.

A colonel and brigadier have been debriefing rebels about the invasion after defecting in Aleppo, Martin reports.

They did say that there would be jets bombing between 3am and 5am this morning, and that actually happened. They also said there would be some kind of a ground invasion this morning. That seems to be happening as well. The information that the defectors have provided is so far checking out and proving to be valuable.

The rebels still plan to attack an intelligence base to the west of the centre of Aleppo, Martin said. "The rebels don’t seem to be throwing everything they have into Salehedin. They seem to be able to mobilise into other areas," he added.

Rebels have been emboldened by defectors' reports of poor morale in the regular army......"

What is Qatar doing in Syria?

Qatar's emir is putting his money where his mouth is, and Syria's opposition fighters are reaping the benefits

Michael Stephens for Open Democracy
, part of the Guardian Comment Network, Wednesday 8 August 2012

".....So here is my guess. The emir wants to secure a legacy for himself as the man who took the Arab world into a more activist phase of multilateral action. As the man who pushed a lethargic, divided region to stand up and solve Arab problems with Arab action, backed by the use of force for those who don't seem to get the message. A certain Mr Gaddafi and Mr Assad being the primary targets who needed "education".

For what it's worth, I do believe that Qatar sees both the Syrian and Libyan interventions in a moral light. Many Qataris are deeply angry that Syrians are being shot and shelled by their own government and don't possess the means to defend themselves. While I cannot speak for the emir, this is certainly a factor in the thinking of Sheikh Hamad.

There are some who think Qatar has bitten off more than it can chew. A tiny state whose entire civil service numbers less than the staff of Saudi Arabia's interior ministry cannot surely be expected to make the correct strategic calculations in such a complex and violent conflict. But persevere it has, and now Qatar is deeply engaged on a number of fronts, supporting disparate groups comprising the Free Syrian Army along with its Turkish and Saudi allies.

It is a dangerous task and, as I have previously warned, the winds of the Syrian conflict may yet blow back upon Qatar. But for Sheikh Hamad the expense is worth it in the long run, for what will emerge from all Qatar's activism is a more decisive Arab arena, shorn of the weaknesses and divisions that have so long plagued it.

Will the emir's dream become a reality? Who knows, but for now the man is putting his money where his mouth is, and opposition fighters in Syria are receiving the benefits."

Intervention is now driving Syria's descent into darkness

Western and Gulf regime support for rebel fighters isn't bringing freedom to Syrians but escalating sectarian conflict and war


Seumas is a good writer and I often agree with his views; but not on Syria.

Seumas Milne, Tuesday 7 August 2012

"Western and Gulf regime support for rebel fighters isn't bringing freedom to Syrians but escalating sectarian conflict and war...."

Syria: Satellite images from Aleppo raise concerns over risk to civilians

7 August 2012

"Satellite images collected from Aleppo and the surrounding area released by Amnesty International today show the increased use of heavy weaponry, including near residential areas, and raise urgent concerns over the impending assault on the beleaguered Syrian city.

Images from the small nearby town of Anadan reveal more than 600 probable artillery impact craters from heavy fighting between Syrian armed forces and armed opposition groups.

"Amnesty International is sending a clear message to both sides in the fighting: Any attacks against civilians will be clearly documented so that those responsible can be held accountable," said Christoph Koettl, emergency response manager for Amnesty International USA.

An image from 31 July shows probable artillery impact craters next to what appears to be a residential housing complex in Anadan. Amnesty International is concerned that the deployment of heavy weaponry in residential areas in Aleppo will lead to further human rights abuses and grave breaches of international law.

"Turning Syria's most populous city into a battlefield will have devastating consequences for civilians. The atrocities in Syria are mounting already," Koettl said......"

A failing state: In Sinai, the people protect the army

Al-Masry Al-Youm

"Those living in Rafah have military forces responsible for securing the border at their doorsteps. While this should be extra protection for the locals, on Sunday, it was the locals who struggled to save the soldiers undergoing a brutal attack.

The failure to prevent an attack on a military checkpoint that unknown militants carried out and the slow response of both forces on the ground and officials stand as a staggering demonstration of the ongoing security vacuum in Sinai, Egypt’s strategic eastern gate.

While local media and politicians alike are dramatically mourning the deceased soldiers, slamming the terrorist playground that Sinai has reportedly become, there is little attention to the incumbent state failure in the peninsula, as manifest in this incident, locals say......

Those residing near the attack site and those who rushed to the scene to help the injured soldiers said they had to act on their own, and faced a lack of cooperation from military forces stationed at checkpoints set up every few miles inside Rafah.

Bassam Ouda, who was among the locals who transported the bodies of the soldiers to Rafah Hospital in their personal cars, said the military forces in nearby checkpoints refused to help them.....

Slow action on the ground was mirrored by similarly slow reactions on the official level.

President Mohamed Morsy only issued standard statements following the attack. After announcing a visit to Rafah, Morsy only went as far as Arish almost a day following the attack, and failed to show up to the soldiers’ military funeral, which took place Tuesday.....

A failing state

Many who witnessed the attack are saddened by the difference between the slow reaction on the Egyptian side and the swift reaction on the Israeli side, especially with reports in the Israeli paper Haaretz that Israeli officials had warned the Egyptian government of possible attacks. There are reports that Israel evacuated its citizens from the area two days in advance....."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Egypt must tackle its sectarian problems head on

To prevent further attacks on Christians, Egypt's Islamist leaders need to defend the separation of politics and religion

Magdi Abdelhadi, Tuesday 7 August 2012

"....The Egyptian state has never accepted the obvious: the Copts – estimated to be 10% of the population – suffer discrimination. Not only are Copts hard to find in senior government and military and security posts, but their right to worship is seriously undermined. While Muslims can build mosques anywhere they like – even illegally, and the state never dares to knock them down – Copts face often-insurmountable bureaucratic hurdles to obtain planning permission, not just for new churches, but even to renovate existing ones.

The Copts don't like to describe what happened in Dahshour or elsewhere many times before as "clashes". They describe each such sectarian incident as an "attack" on them, and rightly so.

But they too bear part of the responsibility for their ordeal. The more they take refuge in their own religious institutions the more they walk into the sectarian trap. Relatively few are active in public life. The deeply conservative Coptic church, which has resisted social change as much as its Islamic counterparts, has sought to speak on behalf of Christians – which tends only to aggravate Egypt's sectarian wounds.

Religious solidarity along sectarian lines is part of the problem, and certainly not the solution. While it is understandable that the church has to defend the interests of its followers, the response to the dangers of politicised Islam should not be politicised Christianity.

The interests of Copts are best served by defending the separation of religion from politics and not by turning the church into a political platform."

Coaching the Butcher of Damascus?

Coaching the Butcher of Damascus on the Art of Crushing Popular Resistance?

Al-Jazeera Video: Andrew Simmons shares details of Syria visit

"Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons is on the line now from Antakya in Turkey. He has just come out of neighbouring Syria where he was visiting field hospitals."

Real News Video : Bloodshed Along North Sinai Border Rocks Egypt

Muslim Brotherhood is blaming Israel for the deadly cross-border attack which killed 16 Egyptian soldiers

Jihan Hafiz Reporting from Cairo

More at The Real News

Real News Video : Why Doesn't Assad Make a Deal?

Sami Ramadani Pt4: US, Saudi and Turkey's support of Muslim Brotherhood in Syria makes a deal unlikely

More at The Real News

The Two Faces of a Police State: Sheltering Tax Evaders, Financial Swindlers and Money Launderers while Policing the Citizens

By James Petras


The ascendancy of a criminal financial elite and its complicit, accommodating state has led to the breakdown of law and order, the degradation and discrediting of the entire regulatory network and judicial system. This has led to a national system of ‘unequal injustice’ where critical citizens are prosecuted for exercising their constitutional rights while criminal elites operate with impunity. The harshest enforcement of police state fiats are applied against hundreds of thousands of immigrants, Muslims and human rights activists, while financial swindlers are courted at Presidential campaign fund raisers.

It is not surprising today that many workers and middle class citizens consider themselves to be ‘conservative’ and ‘against change’. Indeed, the majority wants to ‘conserve’ Social Security, pubic education, pensions, job stability, and federal medical plans, such as MEDICARE and MEDICAID against ‘radical’ elite advocates of ‘change’ who want to privatize Social Security and education, end MEDICARE, and slash MEDICAID. Workers and the middle class demand stability of jobs and neighborhoods and stable prices against run-away inflation of medical care and education. Wage and salaried citizens support law and order, especially when it means the prosecution of billionaire tax evaders, criminal money-launderering bankers and swindlers, who, at most, pay a minor fine, issue an excuse or ‘apology’ and then proceed to repeat their swindles.
The radical ‘changes’ promoted by the elite, have devastated life for millions of Americans in every region, occupation and age group. They have destabilized family life by undermining job security while undermining neighborhoods by laundering drug profits. Above all they have totally perverted the entire system of justice where the ‘criminals are made respectable and the respectable treated as criminals’.

The first defense of the majority is to resist ‘elite change’ and to conserve the remnants of the welfare state. The goal of ‘conservative’ resistance will be to transform the entire corrupt legal system of ‘functional criminality’ into a system of ‘equality before the law’. That will require a fundamental shift in political power, at the local and regional level, from the bankers’ boardrooms to neighborhood and workplace councils, from compliant elite-appointed judges and regulators to real representatives elected by the majority groaning under our current system of injustice. "

Bubble in aid-dependent West Bank bound to burst, say economists

Jillian Kestler-D'Amours
The Electronic Intifada
Ramallah 6 August 2012

"RAMALLAH (IPS) - A bubble in the economy of those West Bank cities, towns and villages managed by the Palestinian Authority cannot be sustained, according to analysts. “It [the bubble] will collapse, and the collapse will be harder when it happens later,” said Tareq Sadeq, a Palestinian economist and professor at Birzeit University.

“It will mean that people will lose their homes. They will lose their cars. They will lose their land sometimes because of the collapse of the bubble. This will affect the whole economy and will also reflect on the Palestinian Authority. So this may be a collapse of the PA itself,” Sadeq said......"

Obama more sympathetic to Israelis killed in Bulgaria than to Sikh Americans murdered in Wisconsin

By Ali Abunimah

"As soon as news came of a bomb attack that killed Israeli tourists in Bulgaria on 18 July, US President Barack Obama condemned it in the most strident terms – even though, then, as now, the perpetrator and his motive remain unknown.....
Obama won’t call it “terrorism”
In one White House statement yesterday, Obama called the Wisconsin massacre “a senseless act of violence.” In another, he called it “a tragic shooting.”
Yet in further comments today, Obama treated the attack as just another (all too awful) mass shooting as happened in Aurora, Colorado on 20 July....."

Severe shortages of drugs, medicines in Syria: WHO

"(Reuters) - Many of the main drugmakers in conflict-torn Syria have closed down, causing severe shortages of medicines for treating chronic diseases and a rising number of casualties, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

Before the 17-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, Syria produced 90 percent of its medicines and drugs, but production has been hit by the fighting, lack of raw materials, impact of sanctions and higher fuel costs, the U.N. agency said.

Ninety percent of Syria's pharmaceutical plants are located in rural Aleppo, Homs and Damascus provinces and they have suffered substantial damage from the escalation in fighting, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said....."

Hijab defection drives wedge into fractured party

The increasing defection of Sunni figures drives a wedge into an already fractured Baath

By Robert Fisk

"The highest ranking-defector yet – the Syrian Prime Minister, Riad Hijab – deserted President Bashar al-Assad yesterday and headed for the highest-paying supporter of the country's rebels: the oil-stuffed state of Qatar.

In a brutal war that encompasses almost as much cynicism as it does blood, Hijab's departure – while a highly symbolic blow at the regime – does not constitute a body blow for the President.

Like the generals and diplomats who have preceded him into exile, the Prime Minister was a Sunni Muslim, and it is the Alawite minority within the Baath Party and the government upon which Bashar relies. They still stand loyally behind him.

Mr Hijab left it to his spokesman in Jordan to announce that he had "defected from the killing and terrorist regime" and joined "the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution" and was henceforth "a soldier in this holy revolution".

Somehow, however, it seems unlikely – however "holy" the revolution – that the somewhat portly Mr Hijab will be firing an RPG-7 over the barricades of Aleppo. He is more likely to join the waffling hotchpotch of former regime "loyalists" who are now gathering around three separate and often antagonistic opposition "governments-in-exile", most of them grateful to the immensely wealthy emirate of Qatar, not to mention the profoundly "democratic" Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is backing the revolution...."

Assad's PM joins rebels in 'blessed revolution'

Opposition smuggle Riad Hijab out of country in humiliating blow to Assad regime

Loveday Morris , Kim Sengupta
Tuesday 07 August 2012
The Independent

"The Free Syrian Army yesterday promised that more high-level defections were coming as the prime minister escaped from the country, dealing a humiliating blow to President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

In a complex and daring operation carried out by the Free Syrian Army, Riad Hijab - the most senior political official to defect so far - and the families of his nine siblings were smuggled out of the country to Jordan. Once safely out, the former prime minister, a Sunni from the Deir Ezzor region, described himself as a "soldier of this blessed revolution" and accused the regime of genocide.

While the position of prime minister wields little real power in Syria, the defection remains a coup for the opposition, and one they hope will spur further senior officials to turn.

"We are currently in contact with many officers from the army and state security who want to defect, including a senior general from the Alawite community," said FSA spokesman Fahad al-Masri. "The coming weeks will see many more."....."

Amnesty releases satellite images of heavy weapons in Aleppo

Matthew Weaver and Brian Whitaker, Tuesday 7 August 2012

"Amnesty International's US office has released satellite images showing the build up, and impact of heavy weapons, in and around Aleppo.

It says the images from Digital Globe, photographed over the last week, "raise urgent concerns over the impending assault" on Aleppo.

The photographs show 600 probable artillery impact craters from heavy fighting between Syrian armed forces and armed opposition groups.
Christoph Koettl, emergency response manager, said:

Amnesty International is sending a clear message to both sides in the fighting: Any attacks against civilians will be clearly documented so that those responsible can be held accountable.
Turning Syria's most populous city into a battlefield will have devastating consequences for civilians. The atrocities in Syria are mounting already.
The Syrian military and the opposition fighters must both adhere to international humanitarian law, which strictly forbids the use of tactics and weapons that fail to distinguish between military and civilian targets

Guardian Video: Assad's forces bombard Aleppo and Homs after Syria's PM defects

Syrian government forces tighten their grip on Syria's largest cities on Monday, shelling rebel-held areas of Aleppo and Homs, seemingly undeterred by the defection of prime minister Riyad Hijab. Speaking from Jordan, a spokesman for Hijab says the former PM has chosen 'to be among the Syrian people and their revolution', Tuesday 7 August 2012

Protesters march on Israeli Ambassador's home over Sinai attack

Al-Masry Al-Youm

"Dozens of members from Youth for Freedom and Justice, the April 6 Youth movement, and Kefaya, The Egyptian Movement for Change, organized a march to the home of the Israeli Ambassador in Maadi to protest the killing of 16 security officers near the Egyptian-Israeli border on Sunday afternoon.

The protesters called for the expulsion of the Ambassador and to punish those who perpetrated or colluded in the attack.

Officials from Egypt and Israel said the attackers belonged to extremist Islamist groups in Sinai, but Islamist politicians and observers in Egypt said they suspect that Israel was behind the incident.

The protesters chanted slogans against Israel and raised black banners that read "in mourning."

Wessam Aly, one of the participants in the protest, said he held the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces accountable for the attack and called for revealing the identities of the assailants.

Israel had closed its embassy in Cairo after protesters stormed it in September after six Egyptian border guards were killed in August by Israeli forces, who said they were targeting terrorist elements."

هل بدأ تفكك النظام السوري؟

هل بدأ تفكك النظام السوري؟
الياس خوري

"مكابرة النظام السوري الدموية وصلت الى نهايتها في حلب. اجمل مدن الكون واكثرها عراقة تقصف بطائرات الميغ الحربية. كأن بشار الأسد ولفيفه من القتلة والسفاحين يعتقدون انهم يستطيعون تدمير كل سورية وتحويلها الى مقبرة. وبذا يصير النظام حارسا للقبور وحاكما على الأشباح الهائمة.
لم يتعظ ابن 'السلطة الابدية' لما جرى لأقرانه من المستبدين العرب، بل اعتقد واهما ان الدعم الخارجي سوف يعطيه يدا حرة ومطلقة من اجل تدمير سورية.
كل مدن سورية ثائرة، والجيش النظامي ينتشر على مساحة البلاد كلها، القصف يمتد من دمشق الى درعا، ومن دير الزور الى حمص، ومن حلب الى حماه وحمص واللاذقية.
ومع ذلك استطاع الجدار العسكري الأصم ان يصمد في دفاعه عن الرئيس الديكتاتور والسلالة الحاكمة، ورغم كل الانشقاقات في صفوف جنود الجيش السوري، وخصوصا في صفوف الضباط، فان آل الأسد لم يبالوا، واستمروا في لعبة البقاء الدموي في السلطة.
لكن امس حدثت احدى المفاجاءات الكبرى، رئيس الحكومة رياض حجاب هرب الى الأردن، ويقال انه انشق مع ثلاثة وزراء، اعتقل منهم وزير المالية قبل ان يستطيع الهرب الى الاردن.
ماذا بقي من السلطة ايها الديكتاتور؟
بلد بلا حكومة، وبرلمان لا شرعي، وقضاء بلا معنى، واعلام كاذب.
السلطة تتفكك حجرا حجرا، ولم يعد من الممكن الاستمرار في اللعبة.
لا ادري ماذا سيقول لافروف لسيده بوتين، كي يلخص له بؤس حالة النظام الذي يبهدل السلاح الروسي، محولا روسيا الى عدو للسوريين والعرب اجمعين؟
لكن بعد تداعي الحكومة باتت المسألة في ملعب واحد.
انها لحظة الحقيقة بالنسبة للجيش السوري النظامي، على قيادات الجيش ان تختار بين النظام والوطن.
فالسياسة الرعناء التي تتبعها السلالة الحاكمة لن تقود سوى الى خراب سورية. فالنظام الأرعن الذي فتح جميع ابواب التدخل الخارجي، الروسي- الايراني، كان عليه ان يتوقع تدخلا موازيا من اطراف أخرى، وبذا فهو يقود سورية الى الخراب والدمار، فيما يحفر قبره بيديه.
انها لحظة الحقيقة بالنسبة للجيش الذي دُمرت سمعته وجرى تلويثه بدماء الأبرياء، فالمخرج الوحيد من الحرب المفتوحة، التي قد تكون كوكتيلا من مساويء كل الحروب الأهلية، لأنها سوف تدمج طائفية حرب لبنان بهمجية التطهير العرقي الصربي، بوحشية استباحة المدنيين على الطريقة العراقية، المخرج هو انشقاق قوى وازنة من الجيش النظامي وائتلافها مع الجيش الحر من اجل تشكيل قوة تحمي الثورة والمجتمع والدولة، وتعلن نهاية الحقبة الأسدية السوداء.
لا ادري اذا كان ما اقوله مجرد امنية، فالكلمات التي نكتبها الآن في سباق مع الاحداث، والأمل هو ان لا يسمح الجيش النظامي بارتكاب مذبحة مروعة في حلب، لأن ثمن هذه الخطيئة سوف يكون كبيرا، وكبيرا جدا.
ان انشقاق الجيش او قوى اساسية فيه عن هذه السلطة وانفكاكها عن الجريمة الوحشية التي ترتكب بحق الشعب السوري منذ ستة عشر شهرا، لن تأخذ معناها العميق الا عبر ائتلاف يجمعها مع الجيش السوري الحر ومع تنسيقيات شباب الثورة، كي يستعيد المجتمع المدني السوري حقه في حكم نفسه بنفسه، وكي يتم تحرير الثورة من اي ارتهان لقوى خارجية سواء كانت عربية او اجنبية.
فالحرية هي ايضا فعل مستقل واستقلالي بامتياز.
كل شيء يشير الى ان النظام الاستبدادي يتفكك.
والأمل هو ان يتسع الانشقاق اليوم قبل الغد، كي لا يكون ثمن اسقاط هذا النظام الوحشي اكبر من ان يحتمل.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: Fight for city of Aleppo continues

"The Syrian army has shelled rebel-held districts of commercial capital Aleppo as violence nationwide killed 37 people, 27 of them civilians, a human rights group said. Ten people were killed in Aleppo on Monday, eight of them civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Clashes broke out in the southwestern district of Salaheddin, where a rebel commander was killed on Monday morning after three tanks moved in on Sunday evening, the Britain-based watchdog said. In this exclusive report, Anita McNaught follows members of the Free Syrian Army deep into the heart of Aleppo's old city."

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrian prime minister joins opposition

"There have now been 41 political and military defections from among President Assad's ranks and prime minister Riad Hijab is the most high profile yet.

In March, Brigadier General Manaf Tlass defected. He is the highest ranking military official to leave, and the only one of Assad's inner circle.

General Mohamad Faris also had enough. He was one of Syria's high ranking intelligence officers and the country's first man in space.

Syria's first senior diplomat announced his defection in July. Nawaf al-Fares was Assad's ambassador to Baghdad, and a close friend of the President.

He's been followed by Syria's charge d'affaries to both Cyprus and London."

Syria's prime minister confirms defection to 'join revolution of freedom'

Riyad Hijab is most senior civilian politician to defect since uprising against Assad began

Ian Black, Middle East editor, Monday 6 August 2012

"....Hijab's spokesman said the defection had been co-ordinated with the Free Syrian Army, the main armed opposition group, over the two months since his appointment. That suggests there is truth to claims that the rebels have managed to cultivate significant figures within the regime whose departure may eventually help bring it down.

"The tightening of the regime circle even more closely around the Assads resembles the beginning of the end of the Gaddafi regime in Libya," said IHS Jane's Middle East analyst David Hartwell. "Although the dynamics in Syria are very different, Damascus will face the same problem of trying to explain away the desertion of senior government officials at the same time as trying to claim that its rule remains unchanged. The perception that the Syrian regime is on its last legs has now never been stronger and it is likely that other senior political and military figures in the country are asking themselves how much longer they will either be party to or allow the fighting to continue.""

Facts on the ground the only narrative that matters in Syria

by Hassan Hassan
Yet outside Syria, a narrative taking root suggests that the Syrian uprising is somehow less worthy than the other Arab pro-democracy revolts that swept the region last year. The Syrian uprising, according to this narrative, is a foreign conspiracy promoted by biased media and instigated by extremists. The position is maintained largely by the Arab left, pan-Arabists and anti-imperialists, as if the only way to resist imperialism or an Israeli threat is for the Syrian people to endure living under Baathism.
Mohamed Hassanein Haykal, a veteran Egyptian journalist and a former adviser to the late Gamal Abdel Nasser, dismissed the Syrian uprising late last year as one spurred by foreign intelligence. He said the cities that revolted against the regime were border cities - proof, he said, it was not a real revolution. Only if Damascus and Aleppo rose up, he argued, could the uprising be considered a legitimate revolution. Since the two main cities rose up, however, he has remained deafeningly silent. (It's worth reminding Haykal that all Syrian cities, except Hama and Suweida, are border cities).
Others have jumped from denying the existence of a popular uprising to labelling it a civil war. When Abdul Razzaq Tlass defected in June last year, for example, Asad Abu Khalil, an influential Lebanese-American pundit known for his criticism of Israel, posted this comment on his blog: "Western and Arab (Saudi and Qatari) media are so desperate for any news that is damaging to the Syrian regime that they play up the 'news' of YouTube-based defection of individual soldiers or officers. That is really not news worthy."
Not long after that comment was made, the lieutenant became a nightmare for the regime, battling with a group of military defectors for 28 days in Baba Amr.
The Syrian opposition has undeniably committed several human rights violations. But it is one thing to highlight these violations, quite another to undermine the sacrifices of people who seek nothing but freedom from a brutal regime. Syrian activists, via social media, highlight and criticise abuses more often than any human rights organisation. In March, when Human Rights Watch issued an open letter to the Syrian opposition about human rights violations, Syrian activists issued a letter that unequivocally acknowledged the importance of constructive criticism and called on the organisation to continue to highlight violations.
But regardless of how the uprising is being portrayed by regional governments, or their affiliated media, the only narrative that matters for Syria is the fact on the ground. The regime is suffering everywhere in the country, from Idlib to Damascus to Deir Ezzor. Generals continue to defect, others are killed in battle and officials at the regime's helm continue to defect.

Christians in Jerusalem want Jews to stop spitting on them

A few weeks ago, a senior Greek Orthodox clergyman in Israel attended a meeting at a government office in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul quarter. When he returned to his car, an elderly man wearing a skullcap came and knocked on the window. When the clergyman let the window down, the passerby spat in his face.
The clergyman prefered not to lodge a complaint with the police and told an acquaintance that he was used to being spat at by Jews. Many Jerusalem clergy have been subjected to abuse of this kind. For the most part, they ignore it but sometimes they cannot.
On Sunday, a fracas developed when a yeshiva student spat at the cross being carried by the Armenian Archbishop during a procession near the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City. The archbishop's 17th-century cross was broken during the brawl and he slapped the yeshiva student.
Both were questioned by police and the yeshiva student will be brought to trial. The Jerusalem District Court has meanwhile banned the student from approaching the Old City for 75 days.
But the Armenians are far from satisfied by the police action and say this sort of thing has been going on for years. Archbishop Nourhan Manougian says he expects the education minister to say something.

Al-Jazeera Video: Egyptian guards killed at border checkpoint

"A checkpoint on the Egyptian-Israeli border has been attacked.

The attackers were killed as well as 16 Egyptian guards.

Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's president, has vowed to bring the Sinai peninsula under control.

Al Jazeera's Stephanie Scawen reports."

Al-Jazeera Video: انشقاق رئيس الوزارء السوري عن النظام

Real News Video : Pt.3 Who Supports Assad in Syria?

Sami Ramadani: The Syrian Civil War and Big Power Rivalry: Assad has a social base of support, but if opposition had not militarized, he would have been pushed out by now


I disagree with many of the views of Sami Ramadani, including his view that if the opposition had not been "militarized" then the Butcher would have been ousted by now.

The opposition remained peaceful for months while the Butcher escalated his slaughter.

You can't defeat one of the most ruthless dictatorships, that has lasted for forty years, by just chanting, "all we are saying, is give peace a chance!'

More at The Real News

The Science of Genocide

By Chris Hedges

"On this day in 1945 the United States demonstrated that it was as morally bankrupt as the Nazi machine it had recently vanquished and the Soviet regime with which it was allied. Over Hiroshima, and three days later over Nagasaki, it exploded an atomic device that was the most efficient weapon of genocide in human history. The blast killed tens of thousands of men, women and children. It was an act of mass annihilation that was strategically and militarily indefensible. The Japanese had been on the verge of surrender. Hiroshima and Nagasaki had no military significance. It was a war crime for which no one was ever tried. The explosions, which marked the culmination of three centuries of physics, signaled the ascendancy of the technician and scientist as our most potent agents of death......."

Current Al-Jazeera (Arabic) Online Poll

Do you support the closure of the Rafah Crossing (between Egypt and Gaza) after the attack in Sinai?

With over 700 responding, 81% said no.

Al-Jazeera Video: Syrians face harsh conditions in Jordan camp

"About 2,600 Syrian refugees have moved into Jordan's Al Zaatri, the country's first official, refugee camp in Al Mafraq.

Many people there say they are appalled by a lack of basic necessities and "horrendous" conditions at the camp, run by the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and the Jordan Hashemite Charity organisation

The refugees say bathing water is scarce and the dust is causing breathing problems for children.

The UNHCR acknowledges that camp conditions are challenging, but it seems that what is on offer is the most that can be done with what has been granted by international donors.

Andrew Harper, the UNHCR Jordan representative, said: "If people are really concerned about Syrians if they're really concerned about the people's lives then we need to have prefabricated units because we also have to start preparing for winter."

Al Jazeera's Nisreen El-Shamayleh reports from the camp."

The Syrian Revolution, by Emad Hajjaj

Syria premier defects to anti-Assad opposition: spokesman

"(Reuters) - Syrian Prime Minister Riyad Hijab has defected to the opposition seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, a spokesman for Hijab said on Monday, marking one of the most high profile desertions from the Damascus government.

Syrian state TV said Hijab had been fired, but an official source in Amman said the dismissal followed his defection to neighboring Jordan with his family.

"I announce today my defection from the killing and terrorist regime and I announce that I have joined the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution. I announce that I am from today a soldier in this blessed revolution," Hijab said in a statement read in his name by the spokesman, which was broadcast on Al Jazeera television......."

Aleppo: city overrun by death is told the worst is yet to come

Families are evacuated as regime steps up its bloody onslaught on Aleppo

Kim Sengupta
Salheddine, Aleppo
Monday 06 August 2012
The Independent

"....Despite launching a mission to reclaim Aleppo eight days ago, regime troops have so far failed to break through the opposition lines in the suburb of Salheddine or at the city's Iron Gate. There has, however, been a gathering of President Bashar al-Assad's forces, and threats from Damascus that a furious assault is impending. A senior regime official was reported as saying: "What you are seeing is the appetiser: the main course is yet to come.".....

There has been little obvious sectarian violence in Aleppo, unlike in other parts of the country....."

Assad's merciless assault risks wiping out both his country's future – and its past

Long View: We may reflect how 'the battle for Syria's history' has been fought many times before

By Robert Fisk

".....But that was then, as they say, and this is now; and when the innocent die in what all the world – save the Syrian government – calls a civil war, history takes a back place, save for its usefulness in the hands of propagandists and mountebanks. And we return again to the old and painful question: how dare we fear for the treasures of history when the youth of Syria is bleeding to death, when children's shrouded corpses are being put into the earth of Aleppo? What do the battlements of Krak des Chevaliers count against the torment of Idlib and Hama and Homs and – for a few days – Damascus?

But Syria's heritage – our heritage, too – does matter. It will be the property of Syria's future inhabitants, whoever wins this deplorable, slovenly, cynical battle today. Its message of cultural renewal and of theological persistence and philosophical persuasion is as relevant now as it was 900 years ago. Whoever "wins" – and civil wars rarely have clear winners – should study those manuscripts to learn about human folly. Including their own."